GLENDALE, Ariz. — Within moments of news breaking late Friday night that Craig Neal had been fired by the University of New Mexico and there was a coveted head coaching opening in the world of college basketball, University of New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs’ phone began to get a workout.
“The minute you tweeted it,” Krebs said of the news update posted on Twitter on Friday by the Journal at 11:59 p.m. MT, 10:59 p.m. in Glendale, site of this year’s Final Four and National Association of Basketball Coaches convention. “The minute it got out, the minute it hit the ticker, my phone is buzzing. From coaches, from third parties, agents, friends, from sitting head coaches, some people who have been dismissed as coaches, some who are out of the game who want back in. It went all through the night.
“What I can say is you always have a short list of candidates as an athletic director, but based on the early contacts I’ve had, it’s clear there is still real interest in this job.”
The Journal has confirmed Krebs will interview, at least informally, at least three candidates today in Glendale, though he would not confirm who. He has plenty of options.
While Neal was let go in an environment of decreased attendance and revenue, belief remains that Lobo basketball is still one of the best jobs in the country outside the power conference structure. Both national media informally polled by the Journal this week around University of Phoenix Stadium and coaches who have reached out to both the newspaper and Krebs solidify that notion.
While there are about 70 Division I coaches getting paid more than the $950,000 Neal received annually at UNM, that pay range coupled with UNM’s facilities and fan support should still attract a quality candidate.
“Personnel moves are hard,” Krebs said. “They’re painful. They impact a lot of people, not just Craig and his family. … The fact that it happened when it happened when we’re sitting here at the Final Four and today, almost every coaching America, both college and a lot of NBA personnel, we are able to get some initial movement quickly on (the search).”
Krebs, whose high profile head coach firings and buyouts at UNM have included first-time head coaches in Neal, Yvonne Sanchez (women’s basketball) and Mike Locksley (football), says a candidate with past head coaching experience would have “a leg up,” though “there’s always room for that to change.”
SOME CANDIDATES: Here are some potential candidates who either have expressed interest, been linked to the job or otherwise meet the profile of what Krebs is seeking:
Joe Dooley, Florida Gulf Coast head coach: Former UNM assistant (1999-2002)
Larry Shyatt, Dallas Mavericks assistant: Former Wyoming head coach and UNM assistant (1982-88)
James Borrego, San Antonio Spurs assistant: Albuquerque Academy graduate, former interim head coach of Orlando Magic
Lorenzo Romar, former Washington head coach
Tim Miles, Nebraska head coach: On shaky ground with the Huskers, Miles is a former Colorado State head coach and familiar with the Mountain West Conference.
Ryan Miller, TCU assistant: Former Lobos assistant (2007-12) had a heavy hand in recruiting many of UNM’s top players in the past decade.
Mark Fox, Georgia head coach: Like Miles, on shaky ground. He’s an Eastern New Mexico alumnus and former Nevada coach.
Reggie Theus, Cal State Northridge: The former New Mexico State coach (2005-07) and NBA star also coached the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
Jim Boylen: Former Utah coach, now associate head coach of the Chicago Bulls
BACK HOME: Lobo assistant coaches Chris Harriman, Alan Huss and Terrence Rencher are still on payroll at UNM. Harriman, the associate head coach, is under contract through the end of the 2017-18 season. Huss and Rencher, whose year-to-year contracts ran out at midnight on Friday, are being retained on a month-by-month basis.
Huss, who has had a hand in recruiting several of the current Lobo players has been named interim head coach.
Tuesday, all current players and those who asked for transfers, will meet with the three assistants and Krebs in Albuquerque. Players who were granted their release from scholarship can still remain at UNM if they and the new coach agree that they should do so.